Grace and peace to the body of Christ and greetings to all nonbelievers.
Chapter 13 of the book of 1 Kings gives a rather poignant example of spiritual warfare that is often overlooked. It illustrates what happens when the man of God disobeys the will of God.
As you may recall, in the previous chapter, King Solomon has just died, and there is division in Israel over who will reign. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin follow Jeroboam, the son of Solomon, while the other ten tribes follow Rehoboam, whom God has ordained to lead Israel, because of King Solomon’s disobedience. God has ordained Rehoboam, so his future as king of Israel is secure, but he is not satisfied. As the Jewish feast approaches, Rehoboam is worried that when Israel goes to Jerusalem to sacrifice to God, their hearts will turn again to Jeroboam, and they will want to install him as King.
Unsure of his future, the king makes a fateful decision. Rehoboam repeats the error of Aaron and the Israelites when they came out of Egypt, and fashions two golden calves. He offers them to the people to worship (v. 28), so that Israel will not go up to Jerusalem. He invites them to become idolaters.
It is upon the heels of this action that Chapter 13 introduces an enigmatic character: the “Man of God”:
“And behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.”
This nameless man pronounces God’s judgment on the altar and those who worship at it. At this, Jeroboam attempts to have the man of God arrested, but when he points at the man of God, the very hand Jeroboam uses to point him out shrivels up, so that he can’t bend it. Jeroboam asks the man of God to entreat God to restore the hand, which he does, and God restores his hand. Jeroboam then invites the man of God to eat with him and receive a reward, to which the man of God replies,
“If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:
“For so was it charged me by the word of the Lord, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest” (13:8-9).
The man of God steadfastly obeys God’s commandment and refuses the king’s hospitality. He then leaves town by another road, per God’s instructions.
Now upon his departure, word of the man of God reaches a certain prophet, who, upon learning by which way the man left town, assays to go after him. He finds the man of God sitting under a tree, and asks him to return home with him to eat something, and the man of God again replies:
“I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:
“For it was said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.
To this, the old prophet retorts:
“I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.
“So [the man of God] went back with [the old prophet], and did eat bread in his house, and drank water (13:16-18).
The man of God is deceived into disobeying God and eating with the false prophet.
Now while they were eating, God spoke to the man of God and told him that for his disobedience, he would not be buried in the tomb of his fathers. Later, after the man of God had left the old prophet’s house and was returning home, a lion met him and killed him. The lion did not eat the man, nor did it eat his donkey, which stood next to the man’s body alongside the lion.
When news of the man of God’s death reached the old prophet, he said:
“It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord: therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake unto him” (13:26).
The old prophet then went and retrieved the man’s body and buried it in his own tomb, even commanding his sons to bury him alongside the man of God when he dies.
I must confess that when I first read this, I was somewhat perplexed. Both the man of God and the old prophet are unnamed and are not mentioned again, but God thought it important enough to dedicate an entire chapter to this story. It therefore behooves us to find out what the Lord is trying to tell us.
This curious interchange prompted the following questions:
- The old prophet lived in the very town where Rehoboam and the Israelites were fornicating with strange gods. Why then, did God send the man of God from Judah instead of commissioning the old prophet to deliver the message to Rehoboam?
- Why did the prophet lie if he was a prophet of God? Would God instruct his
prophets to lie?
- Why are we not told that God talked with the old prophet? We are told that “the word of God came unto the prophet” (v. 20) while they sat eating, but we are not told that God came to him before that. This is a very important detail, one that we will revisit shortly.
- How did the prophet know that the man of God was killed for disobeying God’s commandment? And if he knew that the commandment came from God, why did he coerce the man to disobey it?
- Why didn’t God punish the old prophet for lying?
As I reread and meditated on this chapter, the Spirit showed me some details that helped me to put everything in perspective. To begin, it is clear that God gave the man of God a commandment, and that he disobeyed this commandment. What is not clear is why the old prophet beguiled the man of God to disobey God if he too were also a prophet of God.
The key to these questions can be found in verse 20, which tells us that “the word of God came unto the prophet” while he was eating with the man of God. This is the first time we are told that God spoke to the old prophet. When he took it upon himself to go and find the man of God, he did so only when his sons told him of the works he had done before Rehoboam (verse 11). It is clear from this verse that it was the news of the prophet that his sons had given him that prompted him to go and find the man of God. We are not told whether God spoke with the old prophet, and, because the passage says that the false prophet lied, it is safe to assume that God had not spoken to him.
If his actions were not instructed of God, why, then, did the old prophet take it upon himself to speak for God? Why did he say that the man of God had been disobedient? I believe this was a test from God: a test of the man of God’s faithfulness.
You see, when the man of God went to Bethel to confront Rehoboam, he was speaking for God. He was representing the Most High. Now Scripture tells us that God hates idolatry (Exodus 20:4-5). As it was the man of God’s commission to declare God’s judgment on Rehoboam’s idolatrous altar, he could not do so and at the same time fellowship with those whom he was condemning. Scripture tells us that we should “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). Eating bread with someone was considered an act of fellowship:
“And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father in law before God.” (Exodus 18:12).
We cannot rebuke the sinful and at the same time sit down and have lunch with them, lest we defile ourselves and bring reproach upon the cross of Christ.
But we already know this, do we not brethren? Then where and what is the object lesson here? That my friends can be found in the person of the old prophet.
As we said, the old prophet lived in Bethel, so it stands to reason that he could have carried God’s message to Rehoboam himself. So, why didn’t God use him? I believe it’s because the old prophet had not rebuked Rehoboam for enticing Israel to sin. Even if the prophet himself had not committed idolatry, the fact that he remained silent while Rehoboam and Israel practiced idolatry against the Most High God could be taken as a de-facto endorsement of their sin by God. Therefore, this prophet had fallen out of step with God.
Further proof of this was the fact that the prophet lied to the man of God. God cannot lie, and would never command His prophets to lie. He can however allow a fallen prophet to lie.
Take the case of King Ahab in chapter 22 of the book of 2 Kings. Now King Jehoshaphat of Judah and King Ahab of Israel were having a discussion. Ahab wanted to go to battle against the Syrians and had inquired of his prophets if he should do so. All but one of the prophets advised that he should go. That one dissenting prophet was Micaiah. How King Ahab hated Micaiah, because, according to him, the prophet never gave him any good news.
The next passage of Scripture gives us interesting insight into spiritual warfare. For the prophet Micaiah tells them of a vision of heaven in which he saw the heavenly host standing before God the purpose of which was to devise a means by which King Ahab would die in this same battle. Listen:
“And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner (one suggested this, and another suggested that).
“Then stood forth a spirit (Satan), and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him.
“And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith (How)? And [Satan] said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets. And [God] said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so” (2 Kings 22:20-22).
What the prophet Micaiah says next is very important, so pay close attention:
“Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee” (v. 23).
Did you see that? The devil said that he would put a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets, but Micaiah said God did it. Is this a contradiction? Of course not. This is an example of God’s omnipotence. God brings evil, but Himself does no evil. This agrees with James 1:13 which says:
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.”
This is how the prophet was able to lie. God, through Satan, put a lying spirit in his mouth. Why did He do this? He was testing the man of God. He allowed the old prophet to lie to the man to try his faithfulness. And the man of God failed the test.
This should be a lesson for us. We represent the Most High God. We should therefore not fellowship with idolaters. When we sit down and eat with them, yet make no attempt to tell them they are living in sin and will be judged by God, we send the message to the unbelieving world that we approve of their sinfulness. We give it God’s seal of approval.
Now we are in the age of Grace, so we don’t have to worry about lions attacking us on the way home for being disobedient. But if we are guilty of fornicating with idolaters, we should know that God is not pleased.
It is important to understand that God used a false prophet to test a true prophet. I cannot over-emphasize this point. There are those in the church including pastors, deacons, elders, evangelists, and such like, who are no longer in step with God. They will be evident to the discerning Christian by what they preach, what they say, whom they support, and how they live. God will make this clear to those who truly want to please Him, because He doesn’t want us to give these people an indirect endorsement by passively supporting them. If we are in the position to reprove them, then we must do so. If not, then we must make it clear in some manner that we do not support them, for God may just use someone like that to test our faithfulness also.
Let me give you a personal example that brings this home. As you may know, I am monitored round the clock both physically and electronically. There is nothing that I say or do that is not recorded. For a long time, I didn’t see the significance of this. But one day something happened that really opened my eyes.
I went to visit a (false) friend’s church one Sunday. Unbeknownst to me, on this particular day a Roman Catholic priest had been invited to speak. Now as soon as this man stepped up to the pulpit, I knew I had no business in that place. But instead of listening to the Spirit telling me to get up and leave, I stayed.
About halfway through his sermon, the priest cited the example of Stephen in the book of Acts as an example that Jesus cares for us. He mentioned how Stephen, while being stoned, looked steadfastly into Heaven and saw “Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” Now, we know that Jesus sits on the right hand of God, so the fact that He was now standing when Stephen was being stoned tells us that Jesus was not passively sitting by watching this, even though He knew that very shortly Stephen would be coming to see Him. He cared very much what was happening to Stephen. This was an exciting revelation.
Now, while the priest was explaining this, I started shouting, “Amen!” Why? Because I had just discovered this passage myself the day before, and I had similarly reacted when I made the discovery. I tend to get excited about Truth. Now, it was only when I got home and realized what had just taken place, that I understood that this was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence. The whole thing had been planned.
Now, if this man had been a Christian, it would not have been a big deal. But he was a Roman Catholic, and Roman Catholics are not Christians. The enemy, knowing my zeal for the Scriptures, knew what my reaction would be, because he had already seen it the night before. He wanted me to endorse this Roman Catholic as being a Christian by shouting “Amen” to his teaching. He knew that my reaction would be considered by many as an endorsement of Roman Catholicism as being of God, which it is not.
This was only the first of many such occurrences. The enemy watches me like a hawk, not only following this blog, but also watching intently when I study Scripture. You see, Satan can make a pretty good counterfeit, but they are not anointed of God and so do not have the wisdom and discernment of the Holy Spirit. So the only way for Roman Catholics and other false Christians to get anointed teaching and understanding of the Scriptures is to steal it from a true Christian. Just like their father, Satan.
So, we must be on guard constantly. Satan knows that the unbelieving community, including those who are searching for the truth, are watching us. So, if he wants to mislead those people into one of his false religions, he will try to get the endorsement of a true believer, and the truth seeker, seeing us fellowship with a false prophet and knowing that we stand for the truth of God, may think that he, too, has the truth. Now do you see how the game is played? Satan is a liar.
He also uses this same tactic to persuade those who are already imprisoned in one of his false systems to remain where they are, the logic being that, if they were in a false system, then surely we would tell them, and most assuredly we would not be fellowshipping with them. Everyone knows that God hates idolatry and doesn’t want his people in the company of idolaters unless they are preaching the Gospel.
We also should not forget that when we fellowship with those who hate our God, we are in sin, and at the very least, Satan can use this as an opportunity to accuse us to the Father. So we must be very careful not to fall for this tactic.
The man of God is so-named because he is the Christian Everyman. He is you and I. We who name the name of Christ are all men and women of God, and as such, we must stand for God’s truth at all times. We must not compromise the Gospel of Jesus Christ for anyone or for any reason. We must be sober and vigilant lest we fall into condemnation. We must not for any reason eat bread with idolaters and sinners. Let us keep our robes clean and undefiled.
“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
“Yet not altogether with the fornicators of the world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).
Be encouraged and look up, for your redemption draweth nigh.
The Still Man